Drayton Michael 15631631 Michael

Drayton was born at Hartshill near Atherstone in Warwickshire. Not much is known of his early years, but he may have served Sir Walter Aston as his esquire and temporarily attended Oxford University. Records do show that as a young man he entered service with Sir Henry Goodeere of Powlesworth, who in turn provided Drayton's education. Goodeere also introduced Drayton to the great arts patron Lucy Russell, the countess of Bedford, in an attempt to help support his writing. During this time, Drayton apparently fell in love with Anne Goodeere, Sir Henry's daughter, who influenced the poet's later work by serving as inspiration for the figure "Idea" that appeared on more than one occasion in his poetry. She eventually married and became Anne Rainsford, offering hospitality to Dray-ton later in his life. Drayton may have served in the army and by 1590 had settled in London. He seemed to prefer the country to the city, often visiting with various members of the landed gentry for pleasure as well as for patronage. He probably tutored Elizabeth Tanfield, the future Viscountess Falkland, the first English woman to produce a closet drama (one meant only to be read aloud, rather than acted on the stage), Mariam, Fair Queene of Jewry (1595), and mother to the poet Patrick Cary.

Drayton first published in 1591, launching a career that would not end for 40 years. He sampled all poetry forms, including pastoral, eclogue, sonnet, and epyl-lion, a poem with a mythological and/or romantic theme, as well as historical poetry. He adopted both rime royal and ottava rima, according to the seriousness of his subject. Drayton proved adept at serving society's poetic tastes, drawing on a variety of sources and models. He gained a reputation for his meticulous attention to detail, constantly revising and reissuing poems, at times changing their titles, with some of his work existing in five versions. He published two collections of his own poetry, one in 1605 and another in 1619.

Drayton's first publication, The Harmony of the Church (1591), was a collection of spiritual verse, which later critics described as overburdened with ornate language. Dedicated to the wealthy Lady Devereaux, the poems probably provided a vehicle for Drayton to seek patronage. The book's version of Song of Solomon offended some, and the archbishop of Canterbury ordered it destroyed. Drayton's first critically worthy work was Idea, The Shepherds' Garland (1593), a secular pastoral containing nine separate eclogues and obviously influenced by Edmund Spenser's well-known The Shepheardes Calender (1579). Drayton dedicated his poem to Robert Dudley, son of one of Spenser's patrons, the older Robert Dudley, duke of Leicester. It would be revised and reissued in 1606, but the second version did little to correct its trite approach, which was probably the result of Drayton's attempt to adhere to convention. While he took inspiration from fellow poets, Drayton would in turn inspire those who followed him as the courtier tradition continued into the 17th century.

Mindful of the court's interest in the sonnet form, Drayton published his 64-sonnet sequence Idea's Mirror (1594), later reissued as Idea. His 1595 erotic mythological poem, ENDIMION AND PHOEBE, resembled works by Christopher Marlowe (Hero and Leander), William Shakespeare (Venus and Adonis), and George Chapman. Drayton acknowledged influence also by Thomas Lodge, who would later reciprocate in his Fig for Momus. Although highly romantic by nature, as evidenced by his poetry, Drayton never married. Capturing the wistful tone of one who desires love but has been disappointed, his sonnet "Since there's no help, come let us kiss and part" remains his most accomplished and famous poem in that form. it avoids the cloying heavy language and conceits of much of his other poetry.

In the 1590s Drayton first attempted what would become a favorite form, historical poetry. He based Piers Gaveston (1594) on legends regarding the homosexual relationship between the historical royal sycophant Gaveston and King Edward II. According to the scholar Richard Hardin, Drayton followed convention in introducing Gaveston to his readers "From gloomy shadow of eternal night," as many writers had introduced the main characters of their verse tragedies. However, a few verses later, Gaveston appears to be a figure of light, signaling the fact that Drayton seemed unable to decide which of the two Gavestons belonged in his poem. The revised version in 1596 had a stronger moral tone, emphasized with the addition of 26 stanzas. Also in 1594, Drayton published Matilda, an epic poem in rime royal. Additional work during the 1590s included Robert Duke of Normandy (1596, revised 1605 and 1619), which was one of the final English dream visions, according to Hardin. In this medieval drama, the protagonist is visited by his own ghost as well as the spirit of Fame and Fortune.

Always a careful researcher Drayton often consulted accounts written by the chronicler Ralph Holinshed. His Mortimeriados (1596) focused on the Wars of the

Roses and would reappear in a much altered version as the well-known The Barons' Wars (1603), again considering the subject of Edward II and probably heavily influenced by Marlowe's drama Edward the Second (1594). It is likely that Drayton was influenced by a writer he greatly respected, the historian Samuel Daniel, who had written Civil Wars (1595), focusing on the fall of Richard II through the fall of Edward IV. Unlike Daniel, however, Drayton limited his topic to one event to add dramatic unity, an element Daniel's prose vision lacked. Hardin explains that Mortimeriados allowed Drayton to focus on a topic that he would study for the next decade, "the relation between national destiny and the personal human spirit." As did other writers of English history, Drayton believed that men act, whether for good or evil, as part of a pattern established by a divine power. Important changes made to the second version included the addition of hundreds of lines and a move from rime royal to ottava rima. His interest shifted from individual relationships to the civil war as a topic, and the leader of the revolt against the king, Mortimer, along with Queen Isabel, became major figures. The history contained a gruesome scene of regicide, meant, some later critics believed, as a caution for King James I. Critics disagree over the quality of The Barons' Wars as compared to Mortimeriados. Some feel the revision proved superior, mainly because of its strengthening in narrative structure. Hardin disagrees, arguing that Drayton mishandled the ottava rima and diminished his presentation in an obvious attempt to impress readers with his scholarship. A further revised text appeared in 1619.

A playwright as well as a poet, Drayton may have written several dramas, but only one survived, The First Part of Sir John Oldcastle (1600). Drayton probably collaborated with others on its writing and followed the success of Shakespeare's Henry IV plays, in which the Falstaff figure was based on the real Sir John Oldcastle. He earned the nickname "Our English Ovid" after publishing England's Heroical Epistles in 1597. Based on Ovid's Heroides, which focused on mythological characters, it was composed of a series of 24 love letters in heroic couplets written by actual historical figures. Later critics praised Drayton's skillful use of conceits and his rhetorical balance, aspects that made it the most palatable of his voluminous works to later generations of readers. His next publication, The Legend of Great Cromwell (1607), based on the radical Protestant John Foxe's Acts and Monuments, focused on Thomas Cromwell, earl of Essex, and his service to Henry vIII. Despite his source, Drayton did not exhibit any bias toward Protestantism. It would be included in the 1610 edition of the important The Mirror for Magistrates. Drayton's pastoral poetry also joined that of Sidney, Spenser, Lodge, Nicholas Breton, Christopher Marlowe, and many others, in 1600 and 1614 editions of the prestigious ENGLAND'S Helicon, later considered the finest of the Elizabethan poetic miscellanies.

Drayton had long enjoyed the patronage of Queen Elizabeth and became a familiar figure at her court, known to have shared a friendship with Ben Jonson. However, after her death, when he dedicated a poem to her successor, James I, the King rejected it. Drayton responded in the form of a beast fable, The Owl (1604, 1619). He lacked the biting wit for satire, though, and turned more successfully to the ode, becoming the first English poet to produce a collection of work inspired by Horace's Odes. That collection, titled Poems Lyric and Pastoral (1606), also contained eclogues. In 1612 and 1622, Drayton published the two parts of his major work, Poly-Olbion, the first part dedicated to Henry, prince of Wales, who had granted the poet a small bequest. That work had occupied him for some years, as he remained determined to produce a complete history of England; the first part contained 18 volumes, and the second part contained 12 volumes. Probably his most important project, it remains his least readable. He structured it in the French style with alexandrines, lines with meter of iambic hexameter. To English readers accustomed to five feet per line, the additional sixth foot causes reading difficulty. By the time the second part was published, Drayton seemed to have lost his enthusiasm. The poetry appeared more topographical with historical passages that contained little more than description. However, that description would later act as a source for the poet John Dyer in his attempt to construct a "Commercial Map" of England.

Drayton issued next a 1627 collection of new poems titled The Battle of Agincourt, an epic. His sources for Agincourt again included Holinshed as well as Shake speare. This volume also contained his most popular piece, Nimphidia, a mock-heroic series of fairy poems, also called "Nimphalls," obviously influenced by Shakespeare's A Mid-summer Night's Dream (1596). Also in 1627, he published The Moon-Calf, a lengthy satire that focuses on the vices of London, including, according to Hardin, "whoring, gambling, homosexuality, [and] buying Flemish shirts," as well as a "confusion of masculine and feminine dress." In Drayton's final work, The Muses' Elizium (1630), he returned to the pastoral.

A popular and revered poet, Drayton was buried in Westminster Abbey. Lady Anne Clifford Herbert, the countess of Dorset, Pembroke, and Montgomery, supplied a monument, and its lines have been attributed to Jonson. His life and works filled an entire chapter in an early edition of The Cambridge History of English Language, but he was soon displaced by the metaphysical poets and poetry, such as that of John Donne. As Har-din explains, Donne's personal, ahistorical poetry replaced for a modern readership the historical poetry for which Drayton gained fame in his own age. Where Drayton desired to raise English verse and the country of England itself to greater fame than any other country's, his belief in England's destiny making him an "Elizabethan poet," Donne sought simply to surprise his reader with his control over language. Despite later judgments of Drayton's work as overwritten and ponderous, critics praise his pastorals as excellent representatives of that genre. Little read in later years, his works remain available in electronic and print form.

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